Douglas Abrams: The man who left the US enchanted by Asia’s potential – An investor’s story

A sneak peek into the mind of investor Douglas Abrams, Expara IDM Ventures

Originally from the US, Douglas Abrams, shifted to Singapore in the year 2000 when he sensed the great opportunity to tap into in the growing Asian markets. His profile and accomplishments are nothing short of extraordinary.

An MBA from Wharton, Douglas was an investment banker with J P Morgan for 14 years in New York where he looked after the technology and global markets. Today, he is the founder and CEO of Expara IDM Ventures, and early stage fund focussed on investing in interactive and digital media startups from Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. He has invested in over 20+ startups in these areas since 2007 via the fund. He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Business School, where he has taught since 2001 and is a Visiting Professor in Entrepreneurship for the Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. He is also the Director of Southeast Asia Business Angels Network since 2001.

Douglas lives in Singapore and calls it his home now. His enthusiasm for entrepreneurship in Asia is palpable when you talk to him. What keeps this man going, why does he bet big on Asia, what were his key learnings while investing in the region? He opens up to us.

Journey from New York to Singapore

I came to Singapore from the US because I believed at that time and continue to believe now that Asian markets are the most exciting markets, and for the next 15 years Asian markets will continue to be the most exciting markets, especially for startups and early stage investing.  I truly believe opportunity for growth is in Asia. In 1999 I visited Singapore (and Asia for the first time) on a business trip while at J P Morgan, that very trip I decided to move here full-time. For purely selfish reasons, opportunity brought me to Asia.

Douglas Abrams 600 343

Genesis of his investment company Expara IDM Ventures

In 2007, I launched Expara IDM Ventures, a public private partnership between Singapore Government and IDM Program office of the National Research Foundation where we have made 55,000 dollar investments in 16 interactive and digital media startups up until 2011. In 2012, we launched Expara IDM Ventures II where we will continue to invest 255,000 dollars into early stage interactive and digital media startups.

In 2008, I also launched a venture fund called Extreme Ventures which is a 20 million dollar venture capital fund, we did 1-3 million dollar investments up until June 2013

In 2011, we have launched Expara Ventures Thailand, and in 2013 we have launched Expara Ventures Malaysia.

We also have a 2000 sq feet incubation facility in Singapore. We are located at Block 71, which is special purpose complex in Singapore dedicated to incubators, venture capital funds, startups, Government agencies in the enterprise and innovation space – so it is a cluster of participants in the enterprise ecosystem. We are on the second floor of that building. We have 25-30 people working on startups in the space right now.

I make high risk investments

We invest into a company at a very very early stage, we are always the first investors in the companies we partner with. We invest in companies that are pre-revenue, companies that are pre-customer, we invest in first-time entrepreneurs, we invest in students/young entrepreneurs, we invest in companies that only have a business plan and have not developed product yet! What I am trying to say is, we get in really early. Then we help companies develop in the initial stages, and they are able to launch successful products and go out and raise more money.

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About Alexander Gordin
An international merchant banking professional with over twenty years of business operating and advisory experience in the areas of export finance, international project finance, risk mitigation and cross-border business development. Clients include foreign governments, municipalities and state enterprises as well as Fortune 500 and small/medium enterprises. Strong entrepreneurial instincts, combined with leadership and strategic skills. Transactional and negotiations experience in over thirty five countries. Author of the highly acclaimed "Fluent in Foreign Business" book and creator of the "Fluent in OPIC", "Fluent in EXIM","Fluent In Foreign Franchising", "Fluent in FCPA",and "Fluent in USTDA" seminar/webinar series. Currently developing "Fluent In ......" seminars and publications. Co-author of the Fi3 Country Business Appeal Indices. Extensive international business development and project finance transaction experience in healthcare, aerospace, ICT, conventional and alternative energy infrastructure, distribution and hospitality industries. Experience managing international public and private corporations. Co-Founded three companies abroad. Strong Emerging and Frontier Market expertise. Published and featured in numerous publications including: The Wall Street Journal, Knowledge@Wharton, NBC.com, The Chicago Tribune, Industry Week, Industry Today, Business Finance, Wharton Magazine Blog, NY Enterprise Report, Success magazine, Kyiv Post and on a number of radio and television programs including: Voice of America, CNBC, CNNfn, and Bloomberg. Frequent speaker on strategy, cross-border finance and international business development. Executive MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. B.S. in Management of Information Systems from the Polytechnic Institute of NYU. Specialties Strategic Management Advisory, Export Finance, International Project Finance & Risk Management, Cross-border Negotiations, Structured Finance transactions, Senior Government and Corporate officials liason

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